Editor’s Note: The Soldier Studies web site (http://www.soldierstudies.org) collects and published letters written during the Civil War. Owner/editor Chris Wehner was kind enough to grant me written permission to publish a selection of letters from his site which focus on the Siege of Petersburg. Look for letters to appear here during the 150th anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg and beyond. These letters may not be reused without the express written consent of Chris Wehner. All rights reserved.
Dear Lou: Twas only the other day since I answered your last letter but for fear you will be uneasy about me I concluded to write at once. The old Rockbridge battery (guns) has gone up1. Twas captured yesterday morning about 6 o’clock. There is one man missing, Andrew Darnell from Wayneborough, one man slightly wounded named Black. The particulars of the way in which it was captured were these. On the river road near Deep Bottom is a position from which we could see gunboats in the river about 1,000 yards off. We were ordered to fortify this position and after we finished we occupied them & soon drove off the wooden gunboats & then left. In a few days after the Yankee pickets advanced as far as the pits. Next day a brigade of ours advanced & captured the pickets & occupied the road again. Again we were ordered down to dig out the pits the Yankees having filled them up. We worked there under fire from a land battery they had erected which did us no damage but killed & wounded some of the infantry that were supporting us. That night (26th) we brought our pieces down & put them in position & got everything ready to fire in the morning. What the intention of the movement was I cannot tell but it is thought that it was to take the position occupied by the Yankees. At 6 o’clock it was discovered that the Yankees had crossed a heavy force & were flanking us & in a few minutes they could be seen advancing on our flank. The brigade was ordered out of their trenches & formed into a line that faced the flankers. We had to roll our guns out of the pits & face them the same way. At last the Yankees skirmishers got within 50 yards of our battery & were firing into us pretty rapidly but two shots from our guns made them lie down, but at this time the Yankees came up in front of our pits, then on our flank, & the infantry were ordered to fall back & of course we had to leave & get out the best way we could. The horses were sent back therefore we could not get the guns off. All this occurred in about twenty five minutes. We were also exposed to the fire of artillery & our escape was most miraculous. I cannot but think that it was a special act of Providence & we ought to be very thankful. Somebody is to blame for the capture of our guns, either an officer commanding that infantry or one commanding that artillery here (Col. Carter). It was the finest battery in the army. Capt. Graham went to Richmond immediately to get another battery & succeeded getting 4, 10 pound parrot guns which the horses have been sent to Richmond for today2instead received the mix of Parrot’s and Ordnance rifles described in Driver’s book. More research is needed.]. Our forces fell back & now occupy New Market Hill. As soon as we get our guns we will be in again. I think it very doubtful whether they will advance or not. I believe they only want to protect their shipping from our batteries that were playing upon their steamers & transports that were continually passing up & down the river. Chapin just got some eatables from home which we are enjoying now more than ever. We drew corn meal & bacon & flour bread made almost like cake.
Love to all, your aff. Brother, Thos. M. Wade.3
- On July 27, 1864, during the First Battle of Deep Bottom, the 4 20-lb. Parrott Rifles of the 1st Rockbridge Virginia Artillery were captured by he 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac, which attacked as a skirmish line. The guns had been captured from the Union at Drewry’s Bluff during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in May 1864. ↩
- According to Robert J. Driver, Jr.’s book The 1st and 2nd Rockbridge Artillery (H.E. Howard: 1987), pp. 50-51, the Rockbridge Artillery was rearmed with 2 10-lb. Parrott Rifles and 2 3-inch Ordnance Rifles on July 28, 1864, the day Thomas Wade wrote this letter. I cannot explain the discrepancy, though it is possible Captain Graham, the commander of the Rockbridge Artillery, originally went looking for four 10 lb. Parrotts and e ↩
- Wade, Thomas M. “On Darbytown Road, 7 Miles From Richmond.” Letter to “Lou” 28 Jul. 1864. MS. On Darbytown Road, 7 Miles From Richmond. This letter appears here due to the express written consent of Chris Wehner, owner of SoldierStudies.org and may not be used without his permission. All rights reserved. ↩